Key Questions for Online Communication Strategies

A contributed checklist

This document was produced by Nick Buxton, Website Development Manager, as part of an exercise at CAFOD. Originally written 2009 (?), so needs updating re social media etc.

Audience/Stakeholders

–          who are the key audiences/stakeholders you want to reach on the internet?

–          What are their needs? How well does your online communications currently serve their needs? What do they want from the website/email communication? What information are they currently using or which pages are they visiting most often? Have you asked them what they want/would like?

–          How will you seek to answer their needs?

Content

–          what is the core content you need for addressing your audience/constituency?  Is it currently there on the website or will some material need to be produced/redone? Will you have capacity to deliver the key essential first parts of this by the end of November?

–          Does your core content speak to both people new to the organisation but also encourage deeper involvement by those already signed up?

–          Could putting some targeted content on your website help minimise the number of requests you receive?

–          What do you want to update regularly? How often? How will it be resourced?  Are there things that you already produce that could be adapted to be more relevant for the web/email?

–          How will your online communications work with your other communications? What is the best medium for each of your communications? How can you make sure your online communications complement other communications and does not unnecessarily duplicate?

Email

–          Is email an effective way to communicate with your constituency?

–          What groups/lists of emails would be useful for your section’s communications – based on occupation (eg student, teacher), based on geography, based on interests/issues etc.

–          How many people would you expect to join the elist over 1 year/3years?  Would the list be public?

–          How often do you imagine sending out emails to groups? Who would be in charge of doing this?

–          Would you want to send html emails (ie look like web pages in your inbox but not accessible to everyone) or text-only emails?

–          How would you recruit for the groups? Through your other channels (eg magazines), through the website, by other means?

–          How do you want your email groups to be linked to your other communications such as mail-outs/web pages? Do you want emails to replace mailings for some people, to be an additional communication which strengthens your mailings? Do you want your mailings to be accessible on the web so that people can refer to old messages at a later stage?

–          How will you ensure your emails are relevant to the audiences you go to?  Would you want to personalise emails (by name, content)? Would you want to monitor whether they open their emails/visit certain web pages/forward it to their friends?  Would you run occasional surveys of your list? Would you want the egroup to be linked to other data we hold about that person eg how much money they have given, what other groups they belong to, plus other information stored on the supporter database?

–          Would it be a discussion or announcement/broadcast list? (ie one where all members can post information to the list, or one where only you or someone in your organisation can post to the list).



Interaction

–          How would you encourage your audience/stakeholder to engage with your communication?  What options would you give for them to feedback?

–          Would it benefit your work if your audience/stakeholders could communicate with each other or with other groups directly (eg by email groups/web discussion boards, chatrooms)?

–          What options would you like to explore?  What options are your audience most likely to use and benefit from? What issues/resources/skills are your audience most likely to want to focus on?

–          How would you build and nurture the community interaction?

Learning from best practice

–          Have you looked at other websites covering a similar field to yours?  What do they do well/ what do they not do well? What lessons do they provide for your organisation’s strategic development?

–          What other sites are your key audience/stakeholders using?

Training

–          What training might you need in your section in order to use the internet more efficiently for your communications?

Promotion

–          How will you promote and market the internet communications you are providing?

Evaluation

–          What would you want to be able to monitor in terms of usage of your web material?

–          What processes will you set up to ensure evaluation of internet usage feeds into ongoing and future work on the web?

Overall

–          Are there ways you could integrate online communication into your work (eg include on agenda of team meetings, attend awareness courses etc)

–          How do you see your online communications developing in the long-term?

–          Are there things we could be doing to generate income from your online communications?

Text © Copyright – CAFOD

Some Campaigning Thoughts

This page gives a few suggestions on the basis of 25 years personal involvement in campaigning organisations, to varying degrees and different levels of success. To be added to and edited from time to time.

Also see: Campaign Central features personal thoughts from other campaigners (along with resources etc.).

A few mottos

‘Be prepared’, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’, ‘No headless chickens’. Rather trite slogans, but they summarise some key thoughts below. And refer back to common sense and everyday life for a reality check.

You need to be able to exploit opportunities when they arise – be sufficiently up on your issue and aware of what is going on to use some event or change in political circles (e.g. new council committee chair) to act in a coherent fashion. This is where a small group can score over larger ones who can’t react as fast – they have to check back to HQ or consider the organisation’s wider interests.

Commercial marketing and management skills and training (although I hate to admit it) have a lot of relevance:
– A portfolio approach with a variety of tactics (but probably only concentrating on one at a time);
– Doing a SWOT analysis (see Planning page);
– Scanning the environment for STEP factors (see ditto);
– Making best use of scarce resources, ‘overtrading’ issues (trying to do too much with limited resources, whether human, financial or physical)
– Knowing when to call it a day or compromise.

BUT I am a little concerned about the tensions I have seen build up in organisations trying to go ‘professional’, when they have grown and succeeded through the ‘amateur’ activist working bloody hard. The two sides don’t always see eye to eye, and there is a danger of losing really valuable individuals.

AND on the other hand: beware the over-committed, over-driven activist, who can’t let go, can’t see the wider picture, can’t step back and realise they don’t even know what direction they are trying to go any more. Common sense and real life is still a powerful weapon to wield against the experts with narrow horizons. Don’t throw it away by appearing to be somewhat out of it, too.



Use your membership! Keep them active and committed – small successes are important, particularly if members feel they have helped to achieve them. This is energizing and can give a real drive to the next, bigger goal. Letter writing: “MPs reckon that for every letter they receive on a subject, ten meant to write but didn’t get round to it”. This has been quoted so often that I am no longer convinced! Don’t underestimate your power. My first ‘success’ was in a local Friends of the Earth group in the mid-70s – 3 of us (two still at school) put together a broadsheet newsletter (with help from HQ), which against my better judgement headlined a threat to dump rubbish on the town hall steps if the council went ahead with changing from collecting refuse from bins to using plastic sacks. Wide circulation to press and councillors and instant climb-down by said council!

Classic lobbying is about building up useful contacts and trust, and then either use that in conjunction with a good public case or influence decisions in the background (the ‘old school boy network’ approach). This can be on the level of knowing the person who knows how to make sure that a junior minister gets to appreciate an issue is important or at a local level getting a senior journalist on the local paper run a prominent story. But contacts are no longer the only approach, and indeed may not be as reliable as in the past (they are more likely to move on or have competing interests).

Don’t forget that a campaigning success is often only the beginning – what happens next to consolidate or develop your ideal? It is tempting not to think about this beforehand, as it would only make losing even worse. But do it.

Running an Event

Important note: this page is definitely NOT a complete statement of the legal issues – we only give pointers. Check out our Legal Matters page for further help in this area.

Events Diaries

Year Ahead (was Awareness Campaign Register) has a calendar of all campaigns logged with them, to help avoid clashes or fit in with existing events. However, access requires a subscription.

Fundraising UK has some information on upcoming events.

Where Can We Go, while a general ‘family events’ listing site, encourages community and other charity events to be added.

General tips

‘The event isn’t over until you’ve packed up and got back to base’. Too many events fall into chaos at the end due to premature celebrations by the organisers.

Checklist from Open University ‘Winning Resources and Support’ – SCHEMES:
– Space
– Cash
– Helpers
– Equipment
– Materials
– Expertise
– Systems

Start from the event date and work backwards in planning the lead up. Can you realistically carry out several tasks in parallel, or do you need more volunteers or time (or money to pay overtime, outside agencies etc)?

Don’t forget contingency planning – ‘what if …..’ You can’t anticipate everything, but a way to deal with a broad range of problems should be thought through early on. What is crucial to success, and how do you ensure this?

If your organisation is ever going to run any other event, a ‘debrief’ is very helpful, within a few days of the event finishing. What went wrong, but also what went right – it is easy to assume that the latter happened naturally and end up not giving these items enough attention next time.

Although it is helpful to divide up the work, it also needs to be co-ordinated by one person or a very active (and small) committee.

Practicalities

Taking Money

Don’t forget that there are strict rules about collecting money in public places, with charities having to be particular careful. While police/local authorities may turn a blind eye to small-scale bending, it is usually better to do the homework. See Charity Commission website for leaflet CC20 – Charities and Fund-Raising.

If you are running a more sophisticated event and have the potential to process credit card payments, note that it is now possible to get hold of hand-held electronic terminals which connect via the mobile phone network. Various options out there, but changing, so best to do a web search.

A leaflet from HM Revenue and Customs, Fundraising events : exemption for Charities and Other Qualifying Bodies  – note leaflet CWL4 not available from new gov.uk web section at November 2014 – sets out the conditions for direct tax and VAT exemptions that apply to fundraising events.

Licensing

There are quite a few regulations around ‘public’ events. Unless your event is by invite only (and even then you ought to make sure on the exact status), it is likely to fall within this. Possible issues:

  • Sale of alcohol. Will require application to magistrates court – check out via local council. The common tactic of selling raffle tickets and winning a ‘free’ drink is legally highly dubious!
  • Public entertainment licence. Check with local authority. May also require Music licence – see Legal Matters.
  • Lotteries. You need to register with the local authority.
  • Street collections. Ditto.
  • Food hygiene registration if you are preparing food ‘on site’. Try Environmental Health section of local council.
  • Fire regulations are generally the responsibility primarily of the venue management. Hirers may be required to observe particular rules, or notify them if certain hazards are present (e.g. fuel for a barbecue?).
  • Street activities will probably need clearance from the police, and maybe the highways authority (local council) too.
  • Also see Risks below.

Films

Village halls and the like wishing to show films need a licence from the local authority. There are a number of exemptions to this, including:

  • if there is no charge or private gain
  • if the premises are used for no more than six films a year
  • if you are a non profit making organisation with a Home Office exemption certificate
  • if you form a non-profit making film or video society whose performances are only open to members

Copyright and royalty permissions are necessary even if a licence is not required.

Plays

The Theatres Act 1968 states that where a local authority is satisfied that a play is to be performed for a charitable or other like purpose in respect to one or more particular occasions no fee is payable for a licence. This means in practice that if a play is to be performed for charitable purposes and if dates of performances are given in advance, no fee will be required. However, in the case of an annual licence, there would be a fee payable because it relates to unspecified performances throughout the year.

(The above two items extracted from June 01 Newsline from Community First H&W. They may well be out of date, due to the Licensing Act 2005.)

Premises

Centre for Accessible Environments has produced a guide, Make your conference accessible, but now doesn’t seem to be on the web site (March 07).

Also see Admin page on Access and other premises issues.



Publicity

The usual marketing checklist – who’s the audience (people), how do you get to them (place), what is the attraction (product) and what do they have to do to participate (price)? Don’t forget to give contact details, meeting or kick offs times and how to get there. Obvious but often something is missed off – get a second person to check over what has been produced before it goes to printers/local newspaper etc.

See Marketing page.

Risks

See the Insurance information page, or go direct to Insurance Services page for brokers.

A ‘duty of care’ is placed on anybody organising an event. This means looking at activities for possible health and safety problems for participants, organisers and bystanders. While challenge and other (fundraising) physical activities have obvious risks, everything from meetings in badly maintained buildings to crushes around celebrity appearances have their own unique issues. Step back and consider the (reasonable) possibilities, and plan to prevent or manage them.

The Home Office (with wider input) produced (summer 06) ‘The Good Practice Safety Guide for small and sporting events taking place on the highway, roads and public places’ so that such events are as safe as possible for the public and participants. Its 72 pages has specific sections on charity stunts, carnivals, charity walks, cycle races and other useful material. No longer available from website, May 2010?

Do you need first aid cover? Typically provided at charity events by volunteers from St Johns Ambulance, British Red Cross etc, but there is usually some charge for the service. There may be a commercial service available e.g. Primary Ambulance Services in Essex.

Live music booking agency Function Central have put together “A Definitive Guide to Health and Safety Requirements for Event Planning“. Some of this will only apply to larger or more complex events, but plenty of food for thought.

Code of Practice

The Institute of Fundraising has various Codes of Fundraising Practice which cover running events – outdoor, charity challenge etc. They have also produced a leaflet with the Association of National Park Authorities on Charity Challenge Events but no longer on the web site?

More Resources

Society of Event Organisers run various seminars etc. on how to organise exhibitions, conferences etc. Phone 01767 316255

See Event Services page for ticketing, event booking etc.

Awards

A variety of awards targeted at or relevant to charities etc.

There is a range of awards set up for the voluntary sector/those involved in it, but some are only available for registered charities. It is pretty rare that there is an entry fee. The entry or nomination procedure can be quite time consuming however, collating information and providing a well-written case. Given the often arbitrary nature of who enters and the judging criteria, many see receiving an award as of little value. But others will disagree, and the publicity may be helpful, as could cash or other tangible prizes.

Dates, in the form launch/closing month, are rough and often based on historic pattern. These, plus categories, prizes, criteria etc, may change.

  • Arts & Business Awards recognise excellence in business engagement with the arts. England version disappeared 2018, but possibly still in Wales.
  • Beacon Prize celebrates individuals who have made exceptional contributions to charity through giving money or by providing leadership, creative ideas, skills or time without personal reward. October/?
  • Britain’s Best Volunteer Award wants to discover the nation’s unsung volunteering heroes. Run by Markel and Small Charities Coalition, anyone in an unpaid position can be nominated. February.
  • Better Society Awards from Charity Times (new October 2014) are for commercial organisations, including charity suppliers – entry fee of £99 plus VAT per organisation.
  • Care: Skills for Care AccoladesWales Care Awards – Jan/March? The Scottish version appears to have ended in 2014 – check SSSC website.
  • 3rd Sector Care Awards – launched in 2014 to celebrate and showcase the innovation and care excellence of the not-for-profit care and support sector. July/September.
  • Charity Awards from Civil Society Media. Categories such as Charity of the Year, Campaigning/Fundraising/PR team of the year, best use of the web. December/March.
  • Charity Times Awards from Charity Times. February/June.
  • Charity Trailblazer of the Year award, from The Guardian, ran in 2015 only?
  • Guardian Charity Awards. Open to registered charities with an income of less than £1 million, to recognise “truly outstanding” contribution to communities and society. Late March/late June.
  • Children and Young People’s Services Awards from Haymarket in association with Children’s Workforce Development Council. Various categories are open to voluntary organisations. ?/July.
  • Financial Leadership Awards from Sayer Vincent, charity accountants (launched 2013 to celebrate 30 years). Various categories.
  • Fundraising Awards from Institute of Fundraising. October/?.
  • GlaxoSmithKline IMPACT Awards run by King’s Fund. Open to community healthcare charities operating for at least three years, annual budget less than £750,000. Ten awards of £20,000, plus £10,000 to overall winner and up to 10 highly commended awards of £5,000. July/September.
  • HR Excellence Awards have a ‘public or voluntary sector’ category. Run by Haymarket’s HR magazine. Entry fee is a few hundred pounds. December?/early April?
  • Institute of Directors Scotland Director of the Year Awards have a Third Sector Director category. ?/December.
  • Leading Wales Award for personal achievement in outstanding leadership and management in Wales. Has Voluntary Sector category, also Social Enterprise at 2014. ?/March.


  • Nominet Trust’s NT100 is a celebration of the 100 most inspiring social tech innovations from across the globe. July/September.
  • Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service recognises outstanding commitment and contribution to local communities by groups of volunteers. June/September.
  • Scottish Urban Regeneration ForumSURF Awards for best practice and innovation in community regeneration. July/Sept.
  • Scottish Charity Awards, run by SCVO. Categories include Charity of the Year, Cracking Campaign, Perfect Partnership, Charity Champion, Celebrating Communities, and also a Sporting Chance Award. Feb/March.
  • Social Change Awards from Directory of Social Change July/October. Individuals and organisations other than charities can also enter – Everyday Impact Award, the Influencer Award, Investing in Social Change Award and the Public Body Award (as at 2008).
  • Social Enterprise Awards from Social Enterprise UK recognise organisations for their business excellence and contribution to society. June/July.
  • Tech4Good Awards recognise organisations and individuals who use digital technology to improve the lives of others.
  • Third Sector Excellence Awards, from Third Sector Magazine. April/June.
  • Third Sector Awards Cymru from WCVA honour the hard work and inspirational achievements of the sector in Wales. Six categories (at 2014), including Award for Good Governance, Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Award, Environmental Award. August/November.
  • Wales Volunteer of the Year Award – categories may include Adult, Young Person, Green, Trustee, International Volunteer, Group. Feb/April.

Lobbying and Campaigning Contacts

Issues

Freedom of Information

FoI legislation gives a legal right to request access to all types of “recorded” information held by public bodies. Some reference sources:

  • The Information Commissioner’s Office is the official overseer of the regulations under Freedom of Information (England and Wales). This body also has responsibility for Environmental Information Regulations.
  • Scotland has a separate (but similar) FOI regime – see Scottish Information Commissioner. Also see Scottish Government’s FOI pages.
  • The UK government’s Freedom of Information policy moved from the Ministry of Justice to the Cabinet Office in July 2015.
  • Campaign for Freedom of Information is keeping an eye on issues and publishing advice. Published January 05 is A Short Guide to the Freedom of Information Act and Other New Access Rights in pdf format, 526kb – a recommended starting point.
  • freedomofinformation.co.uk is providing consultancy and research services and has some useful resources on their site.

Note: organisations providing public services will also have obligations under FoI.

Lobbying and PR issues

Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (website disappeare 2019) is comprised of civil society groups concerned about the growing influence of professional lobbying on Government decision-making and life in the UK. Wikipedia entry.

Spinwatch monitors the role of public relations and spin in contemporary society.

Also see Government/democracy/media in our Areas of Concern section.

General

Gov.uk is the starting point for government info (was DirectGov). Try the citizenship section re petitions, the News and communications section for news and speeches – possibly public consultations (there doesn’t seem to be a separate section).

We can’t currently (Sep. 2014) find any details on signing up for the Gov.uk email alerts service (which replaced info4local etc.), which used to provide news from the government departments and agencies.

Dod’s have a range of guides to parliamentary process and contacts, including what is now Vacher’s Quarterly. They’ve also got online directories for UK, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, European Union etc.

Writetothem is an independent facility to help make contact with Councillors, MP, MEPs, MSPs, or Welsh and London Assembly Members.

Also see Campaign Resources page under Useful Publications, Campaign Help, etc.

National Government issues

Parliamentary

Members of Parliament: Politics.co.uk has a directory of MPs. Plus see Campaigning Resources page.

Hansard Society promotes effective parliamentary democracy; runs a Lobbying training series with Directory of Social Change on occasional basis. St. Philips Building, Sheffield St, WC2 2EX, phone 020 7955 7459, email: hansard@hansard.lse.ac.uk

Government/Whitehall

All government departments are now on GOV.UK – the following links should forward to the correct sections if they haven’t been updated by us yet.

Published legislation is available from legislation.gov.uk. Also see The Gazette for official notices.

The Stationery Office Online Bookshop All the official publications in one place.

National Statistics Includes details of National Statistics Information and Library Service public libraries in Pimlico (London) and Newport (South Wales) under Services.

Scottish, Welsh, NI



Regional

Government Offices in the Regions

These were due to close 2012.

Regional Assemblies/Chambers

These were the democratic/political relation to the regional development agencies, but may no longer have much of a role (summer 2010) and are likely to radically change/disappear (apart from GLA).

Regional Development Agencies

all closed by March 2012. There may be some remnant of these bodies still operational but they don’t have any formal governmental role.

Local Government

Information on what English councils do, how to contact councillors etc. is available via Gov.Uk.

Local Government Association site is pretty good. If you are looking for a list of local authority web sites, go to Search, then Links.

London Councils develops policy, lobbies government and others, and runs a range of services “designed to make life better for Londoners”.

New Local Government Network A membership organisation which supports reform and modernisation in local government. The site contains information about the Network as well as news, key issues, events and debates.

European and International

See more general/sector European contacts on a separate page.

A directory of MEPs and the European parliament calendar can be obtained from the library of the parliament’s London office.

EmbassyWorld is a searchable global database.

Political Parties

The Electoral Commission has a database of registered political parties (the focus is on party finance) and various info about them – more comprehensive than our list.

Conservative Party
Labour Party
Liberal Democrats
Green Party of England and Wales

Plaid Cymru
Welsh Green Party
Wales Labour Party

SNP
Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Green Party

Ulster Unionist Party
SDLP
The Alliance Party
Sinn Fein

Campaigning Resources

Campaigning can range from being pretty straightforward to very sophisticated – it depends on your resources and aims. Sometimes the quick and dirty approach can be more effective, if you happen to strike at a good time on an issue which hits the spot for your target decision makers/influencers.

There are remarkably few generally useful campaigning guides and courses around. Some organisations listed under Areas of Concern have their own campaign manuals focusing on their interests, so if you are involved in a like-minded body, why not ask? We have put together a page with some thoughts on campaigning from our own experience.

For social action, community campaigns and the like, see Community Group Resources page.

Also see: Lobbying and Campaigning Contacts, Regulatory Bodies. Getting your message across, Marketing, Research resources and Running an event might also be useful.

Lobby/research organisations

LMSC – the Legislation Monitoring Service for Charities, voluntary organisations and their advisers. ‘Subscribers (are) kept abreast of developments in Westminster, Whitehall and Brussels’. Policy as well as law, quarterly reports. 12 Little College Street, London, SW1P 3SH, phone 020 7222 1265, email: lmsc@central-lobby.co.uk

Organisations with specific concerns (who may well be lobbying and/or researching on those issues) are listed on VolResource under
Areas of Concern or
Issue specific charity umbrella/membership bodies or
Research resources e.g. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Policy Research Institute.

Useful Publications

Vacher’s Parliamentary Companion. Basic information on all MPs and peers, government ministers etc. Regularly updated. A6 size (pocket sixe) £30-00 subscription, £10-50 single copies, A5 £35 sub, £11-50 single. Contact Vacher Dod Publishing, PO Box 3700, Westminster, London, SW1E 5NP, phone 020 7828 7256.

UKOP provides ‘The complete catalogue of all official publications including both Stationery Office and departmental or “non-Stationery Office” publications from 1980 to the present’.

Campaigning help

  • The campaign strategy website from Chris Rose (previously with Greenpeace) has a page of resources as well as 12 basic guidelines for campaigning, and advanced tips, and an occasional newsletter.
  • Seeds for Change Resources page.
  • Sheila McKechnie Foundation provides training and support for those campaigning for positive social change. Library and Resources web section.
  • WriteToThem is a facility aimed at individuals to communicate easily with their MP, but also local councillors, European parliament members. Works on postcode, and also connects to appropriate Register of Interests, political party and parliamentary speeches. From the same stable (mySociety), TheyWorkForYou keeps tabs on activity in parliament – official statements, debates, committees etc.
  • An old article from SCVO covered the position of charities in Scotland with respect to political campaigning in the absence of a clear legal position north of the border and the usefulness of Charity Commission guidance. As they say, there are no explicit restrictions on campaigning by charities under Scottish charity legislation, although political parties or organisations set up to advance a political party can’t be charities.
  • We also like The Tyee, from Canada, which has a CitizenToolkit with interesting pieces.


Campaigning websites

  • Campaign Creator, a pilot project from Bristol Council, has wrapped up – there’s an evaluation report available on the site. Scarman Trust was looking at a relaunch but probably abandoned. The site also has guidance for those new to campaigning, produced with the help of Friends of the Earth.
  • Central Lobby is a part of PoliticsHome, and provides a directory of member experts – charities can sign up to be part of this.
  • Social networking sites like Facebook can be used to set up groups bringing together individuals interested in particular issues.

Campaigning electronically

  •  The eCampaigning Forum community is a loose network of practitioners using digital media for campaigning and advocacy. There is an annual eCampaigning Forum event – see more details from FairSay, a company supporting campaigners.
  • NetAction is an American organisation with a training guide about how to use email and web based tools in campaigning – The Virtual Activist.
  • Software  Engaging Networks (previously Advocacy Online) is a UK provider of e-campaigning software. CiviCRM is an add-on to Drupal or Joomla open source CMS (web based) systems designed particularly to meet the needs of advocacy groups. See Political Wizard under Lobby Organisations above, too. Also check our Software page